BIG PUSH: The NSW Country Eagles, in black and yellow, take on Brisbane City in a National Rugby Championship match at Lismore’s Oakes Oval.
BIG PUSH: The NSW Country Eagles, in black and yellow, take on Brisbane City in a National Rugby Championship match at Lismore’s Oakes Oval. Marc Stapelberg

Country falls to City in national championships at Lismore

IN a bloody, brutal National Rugby Championship contest at Lismore's Oakes Oval, Brisbane City proved too good for the NSW Country Eagles yesterday.

From the get-go, City controlled the pace of the match and pushed Country further and further into a defensive dilemma.

The moment City's inside centre Samu Kerevi grounded the ball in Country's territory a short while into the first half, the NSW team's fate seemed sealed.

City flyhalf Jake McIntyre successfully converted and Country hit back hard soon after, sending in left flanker Tala Gray for a try, which was not converted.

But by the end of the second half, thanks to strong attacking play and mastery over the scrum, City had picked up another three tries.

Left wing Lachie Turner went over the line, followed by number eight Jake Schatz, and McIntyre secured conversions for both tries.

Schatz ensured a 'much of the same' half-time pep talk for the team after running another unconverted try in shortly before the match's midway point.

But to Country's credit, they maintained a great deal of determination and kept looking for opportunities, leading Gray to gain some ground with another cracking unconverted try.

As the halfway point was marked with a 29-10 lead by City, players on both teams, some bleeding and many battered, retreated to the locker rooms to restrategise.

Bursting out of the gate with considerable style, City was met with a strong fight from Country, who began to show off skills which remained hidden in the first half.

However, City returned to business early in the half, with Schatz again slipping through Country's increasingly building defence for yet another try to Brisbane.

A riled-up Country side were visibly frustrated and obviously head-hunting for retribution, charging the ball into City territory increasingly more often as the half wore on.

While City's lineouts and scrum play seemed superior to Country, the NSW team made it clear a slip of attention would prove dangerous for their Queensland rivals.

And it did, with Country's scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin snatching back the ball following a successful lineout, leading to a triumphant and much-needed try for the team.

It was converted by flyhalf Sam Windsor.

City's Schatz retaliated with a strong run, bowling opponents over as he charged back to Country's end before the NSW team pushed back hard for a final time.

A converted try to Country's reserve right flanker Mick Snowden minutes before the buzzer bought the final score to 34-26, City.

The loss was the Country Eagles first of the competition.

The team's coach Darren Coleman said the side played with heart, but were let down by sub-par technical skills.

"We had a few execution issues and a few knowledge issues. It stunted our progress there a bit," he said.

"Our scrum was very under pressure today too. We seemed a bit flat compared to how we have been."

Coleman thanked Lismore for welcoming the National Rugby Championship with open arms.

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